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Prof Philip Alexander - research

Research interests

Specific research interests:

  • The history of Judaism in the Second Temple and Talmudic periods;
  • early Jewish Bible interpretation, particularly Midrash and Targum;
  • Jewish interpretations of the Song of Songs and Lamentations;
  • the Dead Sea Scrolls;
  • the Jewish background to Christian origins and the interaction of Judaism and Christianity in Late Antiquity;
  • early Jewish geography;
  • early Jewish and early Christian mysticism and magic, especially the Testament of Solomon and Heikhalot mysticism; the relationship of the latter to Gnosticism and its influence on the development of the mediaeval Qabbalah and German Hasidism;
  • the relationship between Judaism and Hellenism, in both the SecondTemple and Talmudic eras, especially 3 Maccabees;
  • Jewish messianism, especially as expressed in the literature of the"Apocalyptic Revival" (6th – 9th centuries CE).

Current research projects:

Has recently completed monographs on the Targum of the Song of Songs, on the Targum of Lamentations, and on the Dead Sea Scrolls and the origins of western mysticism. Is currently working in collaboration with Prof. Loveday Alexander of the University of Sheffield on a collection of essays (The School of Moses and the School of Christ), which investigate the extent to which early Judaism and Christianity can be classified as"scholastic religions"; a new introduction, translation and commentary on 3 Maccabees, which will throw light on the interaction of Jews and non-Jews in Egypt in the late Hellenistic period.

He is directing two major AHRC-funded projects: The John Rylands Cairo Genizah Project, which is cataloguing and digitising all the mediaeval manuscripts in the Rylands Library Manchester, to make them available on an open-access website; and The Jewish Built Heritage of the United Kingdom, which is creating a descriptive catalogue of all the significant Jewish buildings of Great Britain and Ireland.